As Warren Gillus leaned against the fence along the final straightaway preparing for the girls’ 4x100-meter relay during last Friday night’s Northern Region Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Lake Braddock, he knew his No. 1 seeded Washington-Lee relay team had the makings of a winner.
The only problem was that with 0.3 seconds dividing the top-six seeded teams, Gillus also knew five other coaches were thinking the exact same way.
So when junior Sierra Riddle came storming down the back stretch in the final leg of the race, holding off runners from second-place Stone Bridge and third-place Herndon, there was Gillus — who had moved to the bleachers at that point — jumping up and down while letting out a scream heard across the track.
“He’s the happiest man alive right now,” said senior Kimsue Grant, who ran the second leg of the first-place relay. “Every single day we had to practice baton changes and it was so frustrating. It’s definitely worth it now.”
“Sometimes it got annoying,” said sophomore Jasmine Woodson, the first leg of the relay. “But it all paid off.”
The relay victory was the feather in the cap for the W-L track and field team, whose 11th place finish on the girls’ side made the Generals the strongest Arlington school at the meet. Leading the charge was Grant, whose fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash and second-place showing in the triple jump made her one of highest point scorers in the area.
But it was the 4x100-meter relay that she will ultimately be remembered by. The race was the lone victory for any Arlington school, something Gillus had the foresight to predict long ago.
In the beginning of the spring, Gillus had an inkling his relay squad had a chance to be special when freshman Marsharika Coleman joined the team. She added a new element — a sub 13-second 100-meter dash time, which up until then, only Grant could run.
Gillus had Grant and Coleman run the middle two legs of the race since his philosophy is to get out in front early, so that the anchor leg actually has meaning and the ensuing adrenaline from a close race can kick in. That theory worked to perfection Friday night as Grant pulled the Generals near the front and Coleman’s burst put them in the lead for Riddle’s final stretch.
During the season, the relay never lost and the quartet entered the regional meet as the top seed. The victory, though, was more about hard work and dedication than any influx of talent.
“Once I saw the potential, we spent a lot of time developing them,” said Gillus. “We just worked so hard. They got upset with me because I was working them and they just wanted to relax.”
“All the practices and all the complaining, it really came through,” said Riddle as she walked over to hug her elated coach.
Though W-L had the only gold medal winners from Arlington, there were several other strong performances. Like all season, the distance runners led Yorktown at the regional meet. Junior Lindsey Hunt took sixth place in the 1600-meter run, while Dylan McGowan finished in 12th place in the boys’ version of the same race.
Dominique Hunter was the lone participant for Wakefield, competing in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. The state championships take place this weekend at Todd Stadium in Newport News, Va.